Re: Nim Chimpsy (was "implicational and factive verbs"
|From:||J Matthew Pearson <pearson@...>|
|Date:||Friday, January 26, 2001, 4:06|
Eric Christopherson wrote:
> On Thu, Jan 25, 2001 at 04:22:17AM -0500, czHANg Jon Chang wrote:
> > Dan Sulani wrote:
> > > BTW, anyone ever heard of (or _remember_ ;-) ) the original
> > > "Nim"? A chimpanzee called "Nim Chimpsky" who was one of
> > > the original volunteers (er, I mean "subjects" ;-) ) in the research on
> > > teaching apes to use (human) language.
> > ::big grin:: I do. Interesting case: the researcher didn't relate to Nim on a an
> > emotional level & poor Nim - havin' the emotional level & needs of a 3 year
> > old child - was totally bored & burned out by the repetitiveness of all the
> > experiments. The much vaunted "Scientific Method" was too alienatin to Nim.
> > In contrast is the research done by Patterson with Koko the Gorilla: much was
> > accomplished (& evidently still is) 'cuz Patterson related on an emotional
> > level with Koko.
> > Science does not need to be so "cold & distant" especially when dealin with
> > interspecies communication(s).
> As much as I'd like to believe Koko can speak sign language (I've been
> enthralled with her story since I got the book _Koko's Kitten_ for
> Christmas years ago), the experiment has been harshly criticized for
> methodological flaws; according to the critics, Patterson et al. seem to
> project their wishful thinking in interpreting Koko's "signing."
I've read some of that criticism. The most generous critics concede that Koko was
able to master a large number of signs and use them consistently, but they
point out that she rarely used them spontaneously, and never developed what
could be called a syntax (instead, she would tend to string words together
more-or-less randomly: "Want Koko want play Koko tickle tickle play Koko play Koko", etc.).
The general impression I get from objective evaluations of these experiments is
that non-human primates can easily learn to associate arbitrary signs with
abstract concepts (no surprise, really; lots of animals have that ability).
However, they fail to intuit rules for systematically combining those signs
utterances--a necessary property of human language.